CANMORE – A well-known local alpinist who suffered a horrific head injury is receiving a mountain of support while recovering in hospital.
Canmore's Barry Blanchard, one of North America's top alpinists who pushed the standards of highly technical alpine climbing in Canada and the Himalayas, slipped and fell on stairs and hit his head multiple times on the way down to a concrete landing while on vacation in Saskatchewan this month. He remains in hospital in Regina.
"He's more than just somebody who climbs," said Jesse de Montigny, managing director at Yamnuska Mountain Adventures and organizer of Blanchard's GoFundMe page.
"He's a really good person. If anyone has done a course with him or been fortunate enough to hear him speak, he's just really engaging and includes everyone in the learning. A lot of times when you see someone with a lot of accomplishments they can have sort of this condescending approach to things, and he's like the complete opposite of that, and I think people are really connected to that way someone delivers their information and just provides respect for people."
De Montigny's friendship with Blanchard dates back to 1997, and after hearing of his injury, he started an online donation campaign that as of Wednesday (Aug. 18), the "Help Barry Blanchard Recover" GoFundMe page is at $125,615.
"It's been amazing to see the number of people supporting him," said de Montigny. "There's a lot of people on the list I've seen that I know either from the guiding community or climbing community, but there's also a lot of guests and friends of people that Barry had known and there's a lot of people I have never met before and his family is super appreciative of it."
In a statement from Blanchard's family on Aug. 11 about the accomplished 62-year-old guide's condition: "Barry has moderate brain trauma with multiple fractures around his right orbital as well as temporal and basil fractures. None of the fractures have caused any displacement. He has multiple brain bleeds that are not growing or creating pressure. He has memory loss and is unable to communicate his thoughts or feelings. He has difficulty forming sentences and often cannot find words.
"At this point his history is obsolete and it will take a long rehabilitation to remember the events of his life, work, experiences, friends, technology, etc. Barry is recognizing family members, his daughters, and his partner in life. His recovery is going well, however, his injury needs to be put into perspective so that people can adjust their expectations. For example: he is unable to pick up a phone, form a complete thought or send a text. Everyday tasks will need to be relearned and this will take time."
As well as his climbing accomplishments, Blanchard is also known for his work on Hollywood movies such as The Edge, Cliffhanger and Vertical Limit.
De Montigny has been in close contact with the family and said they're appreciative of all the support.
"The trajectory [of Blanchard's recovery] seems to be going in the right direction, but I think with these kind of injuries everyone is going to need a bit more time and he'll need a bit more time to continue to fight," said de Montigny. "I think that path for him is probably going to be lengthy."